Unidentified assailants have killed 40 people and wounded 33 others in an attack on the army and volunteer defence forces in northern Burkina Faso, the government said in a statement.
A detachment of six soldiers and 34 civilian volunteers “was the target of an attack by unidentified armed men on Saturday … at about 4pm,” near Aorema village, the Ouahigouya governorate said in a statement on Sunday.
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The region is not far from the border with Mali, an area overrun by fighters linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) who have carried out repeated attacks for years.
The provisional death toll was 34 auxiliaries from the Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland (VDP) and six soldiers, the statement said, adding that 33 more people were wounded and in “stable condition” in the regional capital Ouahigouya’s university hospital.
A security source confirmed the death toll to the AFP news agency and said “several dozen terrorists had been neutralised”, meaning killed, during a “riposte” launched after the attack.
Another security source said the detachment that came under assault was deployed to maintain security at Ouahigouya’s aerodrome.
Burkina Faso’s military government had declared on Thursday a “general mobilisation” to give the state “all necessary means” to combat a string of bloody attacks blamed on fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda and the ISIL group.
Last week, 44 civilians were reported killed by “armed terrorist groups” in two villages in the northeast, near the Niger border.
It was one of the deadliest attacks against civilians since Captain Ibrahim Traore came to power last September, after 51 soldiers were killed in February at Deou, in the far north.
The government had already announced a September 2022 plan to recruit 5,000 more soldiers for fighting that has gripped one of the world’s poorest countries since 2015.
The violence has left more than 10,000 people dead, according to non-governmental aid groups, and displaced two million people from their homes.